Director: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells
Starring: Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren, Steve Martin, Martin Short
Composer: Hans Zimmer
THIS IS FOR ALL MAH JEWS OUT THERE! Happy Passover, Pesach, whatever floats your boat. I’m pretty bias because my Long Island Jewish family is huge and we had those stereotypical ginormous Jewish Seders that I always thought were really boring, but actually were really awesome, but Passover is definitely in the top 5 of awesome holidays. There’s excellent food, good company, comforting traditions and rituals, AND a great story to boot.
Before I start talking about the movie, I want to address this first. I’m not really a religious person. I identify as culturally Jew-ish. That said, I’m going to be look at this story as a story with no other religious weight attached to it outside of cultural symbolism and context. From my perspective, God is just another character. I apologize if I offend anyone by writing out their name. My intention is not to offend.
Now you might be thinking…this is a biblical story…how can that be queer? OMG IT’S SO QUEER! This is legitimately my favorite bible story and it’s because of how queer it is. It’s the ultimate story of perseverance through oppression and an interesting introduction to activism. The Egyptians versus the Jewish slaves. The norm versus the queer. Also, it has an insane all-star cast. Hello, Sandra Bullock.
Moses is different from his royal Egyptian family. His whole life he has ignored this fact. He’s been one of them, growing up with mountains of privilege, tearing through the city on his chariot with no regard for anything other than winning a race against his “brother.”
But one day, all of that changes and the life he has known comes crumbling down around him. He finds Miriam in the street after chasing Tzipporah (who is an awesome feminist character with tons of chutzpah, btw) and Miriam flips that switch in his brain. “You were born of our mother Yocheved, you are our brother!” It’s that OMG-I’m-totally-queer-and-have-been-since-I-was-a-tiny-little-swaddled-baby moment. He runs to the palace’s hieroglyphics and finds out the truth about how the Jews are treated by the Egyptian monarchy. He was found in a basket in the river because his mother wanted to spare him from the slaughter of male Jewish children. Woah.
That’s some heavy stuff to find out. That essentially his entire life has been a lie. “All I Ever Wanted,” speaks to that queer moment of recognizing that you are not of the norm, and how wrong it is that something can even be “norm” and prioritized over any other way of being. This is the liminal moment of transformation where he is still hanging on to everything he knows and loves before moving on to a hard but fruitful future as someone with a queer identity.
This realization boils over when Moses goes to the construction sight for Ramses new temple and sees the guard beating an elderly Jewish slave. Moses pushes the guard off the scaffolding and kills him. And Moses runs away into the desert. This is his public coming out, if you will, as a Jew. He aligns himself with the queer, oppressed population in his personal identity and politically.
Then comes the hippy dippy part of the movie when Moses joins the Jewish nomads, looks at his life through heaven’s eyes, gets married to the girl he objectified when he was a Pharoah’s son, becomes and shepherd, and takes too much acid and hears God speak to him through a burning bush…”Through Heaven’s Eyes,” should be the pro-gay religious anthem. It uses the religious idea of heaven to promote equality. WOAH! Something religious AND pro-gay/pro-equality? These things exist and they are awesome.
Then Moses goes back to Egypt with his magical staff. Um? Phallic symbol much? I think God is overcompensating or something.
He wants his long lost Pharoah brother dude to LET MY QUEERS GO! But, surprise surprise patriarchy, he doesn’t do it. But Moses doesn’t give up asking. He continues to advocate for the oppressed queer population. If only all activist movements had a fancy magical staff that could enact God’s wrath in the name of equality. Alas…
Something I’m really glad this adaptation did was not to sugar coat the ending where God sends down the tenth and final plague killing Egyptians’ first born sons. This shows the cost both sides must pay in these conflicts between queer and norm. Pharoah was stubborn for too long and he paid the price. Think of it as a warning to the patriarchy. You burn us, we burn you. It’s not the most non-violent approach, but it gets the point across.
Then there’s the famous parting of the red sea. I think everyone can agree the animation here is pretty damn cool.
It’s also the final showdown. Ramses is just a plain dummy for trying to run after all those queers. He gets what was coming to him. For once the patriarchy is the bad guy and he gets his comeuppance. And then they sing “Miracles.” “There will be miracles / if you believe.” The final optimistic message of the movie. The queers can persevere and prosper. All you have to do is believe.
The Doty Method
1. Include a queer whatever? ✔
2. Establish a norm? ✔
3. Complicate queer vs norm? ✔
MVQ: Jethro. That big old bear just wants everyone to love each other.
OTP: Miriam and Tzipporah. I ship it.
Favorite moment: There are a lot of awesome moments and it’s hard to pick just one. “Through Heaven’s Eyes,” is a close second, but I’m gonna have to go with “All I Ever Wanted.”